Element 2 Teachers know their students and how they learn
I have worked towards acknowledging, respecting and developing an understanding of the diverse backgrounds and approaches to learning that are found in every classroom. This is demonstrated by my profiling of each individual child prior to my practicum beginning, through observation, communication with the students and discussions with my supervising teacher (see Appendix G). This made it clear to my students that I wanted to know them as individuals, not just names on the roll. In turn, this provided me with a substantial amount of information in terms of classroom demographics, which was foundational for developing relevant and equitable lesson sequences that aimed to cater for the needs of all of the students. The effect of this can be seen in the modification or extension of lesson content to meet students at their intellectual level and encourage them to move forward in their learning. For example, on my previous practicum I differentiated a lesson on journal writing for both the gifted students and those in need of learning support so that I was socially supporting their learning (see Appendix K & L ) (NSW DET, 2003, p.13).
I also worked to engage all students through contructing learning activities,which integrated a variety of learning styles, including activities for kinaesthetic and visual learners (see Appendix A(ii), H, I & J). Additionally I have designed learning experiences that aimed to develop student’s stage of physical development. For example, on a previous practicum with kindergarten I regularly integrated activities that required students to hold a pencil, paintbrush or scissors correctly so that they were practising fine motor skills (see Appendix K & L). Furthermore, I have used students’ prior knowledge and achievements to plan appropriate, significant and stage related learning sequences that cover the necessary content in a way that aims to content with the students on a qualitative level (see Appendix A (ii) & B (ii)).
I will work on ways that I can more effectively include the various backgrounds of students, so that their identity and individuality is not lost in a sea of perspectives (Groundwater-Smith et al., 2003, p.54-55). This may include involving family or community groups in the classroom, providing students with an opportunity to share and appreciate their heritage in activities, and respecting diversity openly in the classroom. I will work on understanding the social development of students and how grouping can be used to encourage progress in this area. I will investigate what specific strategies can be used to effectively address the needs of Indigenous students and how I can integrate their cultural perspective into everyday learning experiences. I will also do wider research into addressing the needs of students with challenging behaviours, aiming to meet them where they are at and understand more deeply where they are coming from, so that I can develop strategies to manage behaviour rather than react to it. I will also develop a repertoire of literacy strategies that aim to build self-confidence and success within all students through considering their individual needs, interest and backgrounds.
I need to do wider reading on integrating diversity into the classroom, the social development of primary age students, addressing the needs of Indigenous students and students with challenging behaviours and catering for the literacy needs of all students. I need to observe how teachers realistically approach these aspects and apply them to the benefit of each individual student. I will then need to reflect on this experience, integrating and adapting their ideas into my own teaching practice. I need to investigate the resources available within the school and local community, and employ them when designing lesson sequences. Therefore, on my next practicum I need to explore how the school aims to cater for a diverse range of students within their school policies, curriculum and their practical application of these areas.
I believe that every student is different and this affects how they learn and how they should be taught. Catering for their individual needs requires the teacher to know pedagogical theory, their students’ skills, interests and backgrounds, and how they can be effectively melded together to create a quality learning experience for all involved. This is not a simple process; it will take a lot of time and effort to figure out what this practically looks like, but it would be immensely beneficial for the growth of both the teacher and the students.
Groundwater-Smith, S., Ewing, R., & Le Cornu, R. (2003). Teaching challenges and dilemmas. Southbank: Harcourt Australia Pty Ltd.
New South Wales Department of Education. (2003). Quality teaching in NSW public schools: Discussion paper. Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/qualityteach/assests/pdf/qt_disc_pap.pdf